With "Live Free or Die," Breaking Bad returns like a beloved drug

It's back! After an absence, the best drama on television returned to screen for Season Five. We've only got eight episodes of Breaking Bad during this run, and then the final eight next summer. I've been jonesing for its return since the wild end of Season Four, not unlike somebody addicted to a drug.

breaking bad live free or die

The Season Five opener was entitled "Live Free or Die," perhaps the most fitting episode title for this show ever. Here are some of my thoughts on it.

I have to start with the cold open, because it was quite the way to rattle the audience returning to the series after a long break. Things started with a flash forward to Walt's 52nd birthday. This is interesting, because the pilot was set during his 50th birthday, and the end of Season Four was, give or take, a year after that. That's a pretty big jump into the future. It has me intrigued, because this is a show that has moved forward slowly with very short jumps in time. If they are going to get to the events of the cold open by the end of this summer's run, or even by the end of the series, they are going to have to jump at some point. It's a bold choice for Vince Gilligan and company.

Anyway, there was so much more intrigue from this opener. Walt has hair! And a beard! He's also got a fake driver's license that says he is from New Hampshire. Then, the guy who sold him the gun last season, Lawson, shows up in the Denny's and Walt gets some keys from him in exchange for cash. The keys take him to a car with a massive machine gun in the trunk.

Clearly, things are going to change quite a bit for Walter White. We don't see any of the other main characters, so their futures are all up in the air. This flash forward definitely whet my appetite for the rest of the show's run. Why will Walt need this gun? Does Walt meet the vacuum cleaner guy who makes people disappear? We'll find out, but nothing from the rest of this episode clues us in.

Aside from this beginning, the rest of the episode is fairly standard by Breaking Bad fare. Which isn't a bad thing of course as this is a great show. Walt and Jesse, yet again, need to get themselves out of trouble. In this case, Walt is still rounding up loose ends from blowing up Gus. While we see him throw out the Lily of the Valley and pick up the ricin cigarette from Saul, thereby solidifying those notions into certainties, but mostly this episode involved Walt, Jesse, and the returning Mike dealing with Hank and company finding Gus' laptop which may have security footage on it.

We've lost a lot of great characters during Breaking Bad's run, Gus included, but it was great to have Mike back. He is a real wild card in the events to come. At first, he was angry with Walt and pulled a gun. Then, he begrudgingly has to help them, even if he wants to just disappear. Their plan this time around, instead of involving chemicals, was built around that phenomenon that has vexed that most insane of clown posses; magnets!

It was fun to watch this trio work their plan out. Walt and Jesse in trouble is almost always exciting, and the show manages to continually make the "Walt and Jesse pull of a nigh impossible plan" storyline work, and Mike and his professionalism certainly helps. I also liked seeing the junkyard guy played by the guy who played the actor who played Kramer in the Jerry pilot on Seinfeld. Plus, when they tested out their massively powerful magnet in the junkyard it was quite amusing, and I particularly liked those two guys who work in the junkyard high fiving because, let's face it, if you saw a magnet that powerful do that to a laptop you'd high five too.

The only other thing of note that happened in this episode was Skyler finding out about Ted. I for one thought Ted was dead, but it turns out that isn't the case. Instead, he is severely injured, but when Skyler goes to visit him, he is clearly afraid of her, and swears he won't say anything. In turn, Skyler admits to Walt she is terrified of him now. Who is left for Walt to be afraid of? Will he be afraid of anybody anymore, having already bested Tuco and Gus?

What also struck me as notable and worth paying attention to is Walt's demeanor. He was clearly carrying himself with not just supreme confidence and arrogance, but a strange, dare I say eerie, calmness. He tells Mike he knows erasing the laptop worked "because I said so." He tells Saul they are done when he says they are done. Will this turn into hubris? And will it catch up to him? Walt has created a void in the meth business. I have been assuming he'll step up to fill it and, I imagine given the flash forward, eventually somebody is going to step up.

All in all, I thought "Live Free or Die" was a good episode. It wasn't groundbreaking or riveting or amazing. However, it was interesting and another solid episode of a great show. It was a nice lead-in for the season, taking a step back and resetting some pieces. That being said, the flash forward was the best part of the episode to me, which may not have been ideal. Still, I liked the episode, and I am really glad that Breaking Bad is back. Hurrah!

By Chris Morgan

About the author

Chris Morgan has written for an abundance of websites. He once cowrote a show for The Second City in Detroit. It was closed soon after. He has a podcast: http://cheers.libsyn.com/rss He wrote a novel: http://www.amazon.com/Smoke-Gets-Your-Eyes-ebook/dp/B00961KJNW/

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